Holiday check-up

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights (Photo credit: ImageMD)

Who is ready for the holidays?!  If you just responded with an exasperated sigh or cringed as you read those words, this may be a good post for you.

This time is mentally and physically exhausting all by itself, so why not consider doing a quick mental health check-up before you find yourself wanting to call in sick to your next holiday event?

 

Here are some areas to consider:

1)      First, you may want to check your emotional temperature.  Are you running hot lately?  Noticing a tendency to respond in anger?  If so, ask yourself what is underlying the anger?  Maybe you’re sad, maybe you are feeling insecure about something, or maybe you are just overwhelmed.  Irritability can be an indicator of all sorts of things, both emotional and physical.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the last few things that have gotten you really upset.  Notice if there is a theme or common thread.  Then create a plan to unwind or unplug each day and create a space of calm.  If you are able to meditate (or what I sometimes do,  which is simply sit still for a few minutes)…it has been show to decrease feelings of irritability and anger greatly. It’s amazing how even 60 seconds of stillness positively impacts our emotional well-being.

2)      Second, how is your appetite?   Are you eating your feelings?  Have you been reaching for extra servings of carbs and sweets?  Think about what is it that you may be trying to compensate for.  Another thought is to really consider what makes you feel “full”.  Are you seeking out activities that inspire you and fill your heart with joy?  Think about something that you can set some time aside for that truly fills you up (without all the extra calories).

3)      How is your energy level?  Are you waking up only to wish for another hour of snooze time?  And more importantly, are you pushing through the day feeling like you slept on a bed of rocks?  Getting enough sleep impacts everything from our mental sharpness, our emotional responses, and ability to problem solve. Energy level is also impacted by what we put in our bodies and if we are not eating enough balanced nutrition and taking in enough water….our whole system suffers.  Also consider what kind of energy is surrounding you.  If you are rubbing elbows with negative people all day, that’s gonna run you down.  Sometimes you can’t escape a cranky co-worker, but maybe you can take extra steps to limit contact and be ready to respond with extra kindness and positivity.  It may be as simple as repeating a positive affirmation or even faking a smile until it feels real.  Yes, that does work.  Try it right now if you don’t believe me.

4)      Now, let’s talk about your flexibility.   Nope, this isn’t about being about to touch your toes (though it is important)!  It’s about being open to a new experiences and rolling with the flow.  Are you hearing yourself explain why you can’t do something, or why something automatically won’t work?  Rigid thinking leads us to experience higher level of stress and releases all those hormones that contribute to feeling fatigued, irritable, and generally uninspired.  Start stretching yourself.  Try to resist the impulse to immediately think why something won’t work and think about how you are willing to try.  If you are going through a lot of changes, give yourself permission to feel a bundle of emotions but work on identifying what type of support you need while you’re going through the change.  Do you need someone to hear you and validate you? Or maybe you just need to acknowledge that the change is scary as hell and you’re feeling scared or fearful.  It’s okay to feel all those things.  There is something powerful about acknowledging and owning feelings of vulnerability.  Again, this about increasing awareness.  There may not be a quick fix or solution…but a higher sense of awareness can serve you well.

5)      And finally, when’s the last time you checked your vision for yourself?  How far are you able to see in the future?  I’m not talking about a psychic hotline kind of stuff, I’m referring to feeling hopeful and goal-oriented.  Have you reviewed your goals for yourself lately  or even better, have you set some new ones?  Don’t wait until a new year’s resolution party….write down a couple of things that you would like to do now and create a plan of action to go along with it.  Include the people who you need support from and a timeline.  One of the most powerful ways to instill hope is to create a goal.  When you create goals, you acknowledge that something IS possible.  That is the crux of what hope is, believing in a possibility.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate 5 year plan.  It can be something as simple as listing off the chores you want to accomplish by the end your weekend.  Next time someone asks you why you are writing out a ‘to do’ list, just tell them that you are engaging in an act of hope.

 

Yes, the holidays are coming whether we are ready or not.  So why not take a few minutes and think about your emotional health and where you are today before taking on a whole new set of worries, tasks, and responsibilities.   Who knows, maybe if you take the time to increase your awareness and possibly incorporate some strategies now; you may not end up screaming at your in-laws at the next family dinner or flipping out about the lack of adequate parking at the local shopping mall. Okay, maybe that last point was a stretch, but never underestimate the power of positive thinking.  🙂

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The power of hope is stronger than the turmoil of worry

When is the last time someone asked you, “What are you hoping for?”  And how often do we spend time thinking about our hopes and dreams?  I say things all the time like, “I’m hoping for a quiet day today” or “I hope traffic isn’t backed up this morning.”  But I don’t really think about what it means to be hopeful when I’m saying these things.  I have things in my life I think about often, including work, financial security, my parent’s health, the people in my life, emotional stress, the tragedies that occur each day, and my overall state of well-being, but what I get from all that is a lot of time worrying and not so much time hoping

And let’s be real, who can blame me?  The media and our culture tell me every day a host of things to worry about including health, politics, the BPA in plastic, global warming, gas prices, community violence, and the unstable economy just to name a few.  I stopped watching the news on a regular basis because I just couldn’t stand it any longer.  Each broadcast seems to start with a highlight of something violent, traumatic, and/or otherwise tragic.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a news hour with a promo of  “This is going to make your heart sing…so stand by and get your daily dose of uplifting news.” Or better yet, how about “Look, we are about to give you some really overwhelming and scary information but we promise to end out the news cast with solid strategies to reduce your anxiety and improve your sense of calm and peace.

I can’t help but wonder what we are doing to our younger generation when we subject them to all of this worry instead of instilling more hope.  If I ask a teenager what they hope for.  They may start off by saying something like “I hope I’m rich and famous someday.” But when I go ahead and ask them a couple of more questions, like “So if you’re rich and famous, what will that mean for you?”  or “What if you were rich and famous right now, what would be different?”  It takes a few rounds of creative questioning, but eventually I hear “…because if I have money and fame then I won’t have to worry.”

The reality is that we have been conditioned to be more comfortable in a state of fear, worry, and angst than we are in a state of peace or hopefulness.  Not to mention that we are constantly being told that we need more money and everything is getting more scarce and the concept of ‘enough’ is almost unheard of.  It’s so sad that we are programmed to respond to the routine question “How are you?” with a dismissive, “Oh, I’m fine.  Thanks.”  Because then we end up in this place where we don’t really share our insecurities or worries nor do we create a space to resolve them with acts of hope.  This is a common place I like to call turmoil.  Unfortunately, I know this space too well.

So how do we get out of the turmoil and make a left turn towards hope?  I believe we have to start by acknowledging what it is that is really worrying us so much and then invest time and effort in figuring out how we are doing address it.  And a major part of this process is: 1) being honest about what it is that we are wanting, and 2) defining what reasonable steps we are willing to take in that direction. The raw definition of hope (according to Dictionary.com) is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  And an effective way of feeling that something CAN happen is to identify at least one strategy that puts us one step closer to our stated desire.  So figure out what you need and then create movement in that direction.

Essentially, when we make goals…we promote hope.  And I believe it’s not just hope for ourselves, but for other people too.  I know that when my friends start showing me their accomplishments or telling me of their goals, I start thinking “Dang, I need to get off my butt and do something useful too.”  Now, it does help to have awesome friends who inspire you to be better and challenge you out of your comfort zone, but even if your friends are not lighting fires beneath you; think about how you can be the source of that fire for someone else as well as for yourself!

Of course, I can’t make goals to control things like illness, tragedy, or even how someone will react to me, but if I create strategies that help me address stress, sadness, and other overwhelming feelings…I can at least have options to explore when these things happen.  I guess what I’m getting at is that I realize I can’t control all of these external things happening, but I always have a choice on how to respond.  I can choose to respond with worry, fear, and anxiety or kick all that to the curb and respond with hope, love, and faith.  Those are the things that promote my feelings of safety and security which increase my state of hopefulness and ultimately, my well-being.  Yes, I admit; it’s much easier to say it than to do it.  But as always, this is my reminder that doing it feels much better than just talking about it.

Peace.

Afternoon by the river

Afternoon by the river